Lynx Postgame Notes: August 4, 2003

Lynx 61, Mercury 56
Target Center

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Sheri Sam is 37 points away from 2,000 in her WNBA career.
David Sherman, WNBAE/Getty Images
Minnesota extended its club-record home winning streak to seven with tonight's victory. They're now 11-4 at Target Center this season — tied with Houston (11-2) for the most home wins in the WNBA — and move over the .500 mark (40-39) all-time at home.

The win was Minnesota's 15th of the year, matching the franchise single-season record for victories (15-17 in both 1999 and 2000). The Lynx now play six of their final eight regular-season contests on the road, starting Wednesday night in Phoenix.

Entering tonight's game, Phoenix had won two of its previous three outings, including a 70-69 double-OT triumph Sunday at Washington. Tonight's loss was the Mercury's 20th on the season — one shy of the club single-season record (11-21 in 2002) — and mathematically eliminates them from playoff contention for 2003. Phoenix has now dropped 34 of its last 37 road games (dating to July 2001), but finishes the year by playing seven of its last nine at America West Arena, including two against the Lynx.

Minnesota has now beaten the Mercury three straight times (all at Target Center), after suffering losses in six of their previous seven meetings. Phoenix still holds an 8-7 lead in the all-time series, having won the last two encounters at America West Arena (most recently a 57-45 triumph on Aug. 29, 2002).

With tonight's win, the Lynx move into sole possession of third place in the Western Conference playoff race, a half-game ahead of Seattle (14-11) and one up on Sacramento (14-12). They also trail second-place Houston (15-9) by just one game and West-leading Los Angeles (18-8) by three.

Minnesota bounced back from a season-low 18-point effort in the first half (previous: 21 at Houston, July 29) to ring up 43 points after intermission. The Lynx established a new club record by shooting 80.0% (12-for-15) from the floor in the second half, breaking the previous mark of 65.5% (Aug. 2, 2002 vs. Phoenix, second half). In winning four of its last five games, Minnesota is hitting at a 54.1% clip after halftime. The Lynx continue to lead the WNBA in field-goal accuracy at 44.9%.

Minnesota also set a club single-game mark for free-throw accuracy by making all 20 of its attempts this evening, including a 18-for-18 performance in the second half. That ties the fourth-best single-game effort in WNBA history for most FTMs without a miss. The league record is a pair of 27-for-27 outings, most recently by Los Angeles on July 24 vs. Phoenix. Minnesota's previous best night was 11-for-11, set at Houston on Aug. 9, 2000. The Lynx are now shooting 77.5% from the line over their last 16 contests.

The Lynx racked up a 33-22 rebounding advantage vs. Phoenix, their third double-figure margin of the season. They've been outboarded in only four of their last 20 games overall, and improve to 13-3 on the year with the rebounding edge. Meanwhile, the Mercury slip to 0-18 in games they've come up short on the glass. They rank last in the WNBA in rebounding margin (-3.1 rpg), while Minnesota is second (+2.7).

Phoenix finished with 56 points, on the heels of Sunday's 70-point showing in the double-OT victory at Washington. The Mercury have reached 70 only four times this season, and trail the WNBA in scoring average (60.8 ppg). Minnesota held Phoenix to 36.7% shooting tonight, the Lynx' 11th sub-40% defensive effort in the last 16 games. In winning four of its last five contests, Minnesota has limited the opposition to a combined 36.5% from the floor.

The Mercury forced 22 Lynx turnovers this evening, Minnesota's seventh 20+ outing on the year. In the clubs' previous meeting (June 27 at Target Center), Phoenix forced the Lynx into 27 miscues — a franchise single-game high for Minnesota and the most by any WNBA team in 2003.

Minnesota forward Sheri Sam scored a game-high 18 points and grabbed a game-high seven rebounds. She's reached double figures in 11 of 13 games since July 1, averaging 14.4 ppg (on 43.8% shooting) in that time. Sam is now just 37 points away from reaching the 2000 mark for her WNBA career.

Lynx center Janell Burse scored all 14 of her points in the second half tonight, adding six rebounds and two blocks. Burse has started the last six games for Minnesota, averaging 13.5 ppg (on 56.9% shooting), 8.0 rpg and 2.50 bpg.

Guard Katie Smith saw her WNBA-record string of 32 consecutive games with a made three-pointer ended this evening. The last time Smith failed to hit a trey was July 29, 2002 at Phoenix. Smith scored eight points, all on free throws in the final minute of the game.